This year, the NHL is kicking off its season in Europe. The Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild will begin it with their first two games in Helsinki. While there native Finn, and forward for the Hurricanes Tuomo Ruutu, will be taking his team to experience the smoke saunas on Sauna Island when they arrive in Helsinki.
Smoke saunas are the original form of the Finnish sauna, and were the only kind available until enclosed stoves were developed in the mid-20th century. In a smoke sauna, an open fire is built beneath the stones to preheat them before the bathers arrive. The smoke from the fire fills the sauna. Typically a mixture of hardwood and softwood logs are used as fuel for the fire, with the softwoods, typically juniper, added at the end to impart some aroma to the heat.
Before the bathers are allowed in the sauna, the fire is allowed to burn out, and the embers are swept out of the sauna to minimize the risks of Carbon Monoxide inhalation. The heat needed for bathing is now stored in the stones of the stove.
Pentti Tuohimaa, chairman of the International Smoke Sauna Club told Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that you should “heat the sauna stove quickly. The idea is that the building itself is not heated, but the temperature inside is controlled by throwing water on the stove.” He estimates that he can prepare his personal smoke sauna with three firebox loads of wood, making it more efficient and environmentally friendly than a continuously heated stove.
At the start of last year’s season, the Florida Panthers paid a visit to Sauna Island when they played a game in Helsinki against the Chicago Black Hawks. The Panthers went on to come in last in their division. Let’s hope things work out better for the ‘Canes this year.
If you’re looking to try a smoke sauna, see the listings in our database.